What If We Made Voting Fun?

If we made voting fun, including making it a holiday, participation would go way up.

At last, here comes Tuesday, Nov. 6: Time to vote! But we don’t make voting fun, not at all.

From coast to coast, We the People will stream into polling places to say “yes” (or “no”) to a lineup of politicos seeking to become our public officials. It’s the majestic panorama of democracy in action.

Well… describing today’s electoral process as “majestic” is hardly the right word, for millions of our citizens will not be allowed to vote. That’s because a consortium of national, state and local officials of Republican persuasion — along with their corporate ringleaders — have mounted a tawdry campaign over the past decade to slam the ballot box shut on entire segments of America’s electorate.

In a concerted effort, these rabidly partisan officials have targeted African-Americans, students, Latinos, the elderly, union households, the poor, immigrants and other communities of qualified voters to shoo them away on election day. Why? Because such citizens tend to vote for Democrats and progressive ballot initiatives. So the GOP’s grand strategy is to “win,” and not by getting the most votes — by aggressively (and shamefully) shutting out millions of Americans who might vote against their plutocratic, autocratic, kleptocratic candidates and agenda.

Consider Election Day itself: Tuesday. A work day, automatically eliminating people who work two or three jobs who can’t afford to take off a couple of hours or more to get to the polls and wait in line to vote. Move elections to weekends, make it a holiday, vote by mail… make democracy easy!

Instead, in a depraved, anti-democratic grab for partisan gain, Republican officials have frenetically been planting thick brier patches of ridiculous rules, logistical barriers, intimidation tactics, ballot deceptions and outright voters bans in targeted precincts across the country. These thugs are stealing the people’s most valuable civic property: our votes. They should at least have to wear ski masks on Election Day so everyone can see who’s doing this to us.

You don’t need a PhD in political science to discover a shameful truth about America’s democratic process: It’s not all that democratic. In fact, as Chris Rock — the actor, comedian and social commentator — succinctly put it several years ago, “They don’t want you to vote.”

By “they,” he means the power elites who benefit by restricting the vote as tightly as possible to people who support candidates and policies that advance their plutocratic rule over “Us, the People.” We can wring our hands about the rampant voter suppression suffocating the people’s will, or we could join hands to support common-sense measures for voter expansion.

Start with basic ethics. It’s an abomination that politicians rig the system to exclude legitimate voters, and those who do so should be publicly shamed and mocked for their pretension that they’re “protecting the integrity” of the ballot box. All they’re protecting is their political posteriors, and they should be called out by name for stealing. We should demand a culture of full participation, requiring voter suppressors to prove the validity of shutting out each and every voter they target.

Tear down the barriers. Some 6 million felons who’ve paid their dues should be restored to full citizenship. Every 18-year-old should automatically be registered to vote. No mass purges of voter rolls. Vote-by-mail. Extended and easy absentee voting. Election Week rather than Election Day. Acceptance of any valid ID. Voting where you live. Restoring the Voting Rights Act. A constitutional amendment ensuring every eligible individual’s right to vote. And investing fully in our nation’s democratic infrastructure with verifiable voting machines, multiple polling places within easy reach of all, an abundance of trained poll workers to eliminate lines and quickly resolved problems.

And here’s a crazy idea: Make voting fun! It should be a festive occasion for the whole community. In Australia, for example, most polling places have barbecues. Why not add music, art, games and other enjoyment to make voting a truly civic activity? America’s democratic pageant doesn’t have to be a grinding obstacle course, an intimidating experience … or boring. After all, it belongs to us.

Jim Hightower